The first step to finishing any furniture project is sanding. Whether you choose to use a power sander or sand everything by hand, selecting the right type of sand paper is crucial to the outcome. Sanding with the wrong paper can damage your piece of furniture and cause lots of extra work for you. And we would like to avoid creating extra work for ourselves at all costs, right?
I have heard your cries about sanding woes of projects past, so today on Before and After Basics I will try to take some of the abrasiveness (pun completely intended!) out of sanding. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty (said in my best Nacho Libre voice!) — Barb
CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!
Choosing the Right Grit
- Sandpaper is graded based on the number of abrasive material per square inch, so higher numbers reflect a finer grit and lower numbers indicate a coarser grit. It usually goes something like this: medium, 80–120; fine, 150–180; very fine, 220–240; extra fine, 280–320.
- Sanding with progressively finer grits removes the scratches left by the previous grit and eventually leaves a smooth finish. So start with a coarser grit and move on to a finer grit for your polishing step.
- Coarse-grit papers will remove material fast and when followed by finer grit papers, make for much easier and quicker sanding. This is opposed to using a finer grit to sand the entire piece. You can do that, but it will take much more time and energy!
- The number one rule is to ALWAYS sand with the grain of the wood, never across or against it. It totally stinks when you get this great, painted finish on a piece and you see sanding spirals staring back at you. Not good at all!
- When I am hand sanding, I prefer a sanding sponge for a couple reasons. One, a sanding sponge contours to the piece that I am sanding especially if there is detail work and a lot of curves. Two, when you use a plain piece of sandpaper and your hand, the paper contours to your hand and not the piece, leaving an uneven sanding job. Third, a sanding sponge has sanding surfaces on all sides making it easy to get in small nooks and crannies.
- If you decide that the job requires a belt sander, just know that you are using a powerful tool and it will eat the piece for lunch if you are not careful! Also know that the power sander cannot get into the small corners, so you will have to use a smaller detail tool for that. Belt sanders are perfect for removing lots of surface material, but use caution. In my line of furniture work I rarely find a need for a belt sander, but every now and again I do pull out the big gun!
- I do, however, use an orbital sander on a daily basis, and it is one of my most valuable tools besides the paint brush. I love me some orbital goodness! While an orbital sander can still do some damage if not kept moving, it is much more manageable than a belt sander. One word of caution here: do not push down on the sander while in use, but rather let the sander do the work for you and keep it moving. If you leave it in one place for too long, you will have a sanding circle that looks like a little alien space ship landed on your piece!
A quick note about distressing your painted pieces: I personally use an orbital sander for all flat surfaces, such as dresser tops and drawer fronts, but prefer to use sanding sponges for any of the detail sanding. When using an orbital sander for distressing, it is crucial to keep the sander moving and on the surface of the piece. Removing the sander from the piece and then placing it back on the surface causes what I call “exit and entry wounds” that leave unnatural markings on your surface. Remember to sand areas where you feel the piece would naturally show wear and tear over time for the most authentic finish.
I hope that helps with your sanding issues! See you next week!